Yakuza Kiwami — Review

Yakuza games are known for doing a few things very well – giving you the odd ball, weird side missions and providing a great crime drama story. Yakuza Kiwami is no different and very much continues the Yakuza tradition.

In Yakuza Kiwami we revisit Kazuma Kiryu over 10 years after his first adventure back in 2005. Yakuza Kiwami is a remake of the original game in the series and classic fans will enjoy seeing where it all started, but this time in glorious and detailed high definition.

This is the follow up to the recent Yakuza 0 and for the most part is a straightforward recreation of the original game, but it goes to show how far the series has come since its inception. As with a lot of remasters and recreations these days, most, if not all of the original game is here – even the bad parts.

Fresh out of jail Kazuma Kiryu is back after taking the fall in a murder case. There’s a lot of catching up for him to do but it doesn’t take long before those fists of fury see action again.

As is the tradition in Yakuza games, Kiryu gets caught up in an underground world filled with violence, betrays and all the drama you could want from the neon lit streets of Japan. Although the world surrounding him looks much better in its high definition recreation, Kiryu is still the same old suited up gangster, frowning and always ready for a fight.

The story in Yakuza Kiwami is the same as in the original game, but the details and the graphics have been totally reworked. For a game originally released in 2005, it now looks on par with the modern games in the series like Yakuza 0.

The graphical updates provide Yakuza Kiwami with a cinematic feel that suits the crime drama on show. The streets of Tokyo are detailed in vibrant, looking great throughout the games 13 chapters. Exploring the distracted is often fun, yielding rewards and other fun side quests. The game helpfully provides waypoints on your mini map, guiding the way to the next part of your journey.

You have to remember that this is a game from 2005 and compared to modern standards can be slightly limiting at times. It’s easy to forget when you’re looking at this game as it looks just as good as some of the more recent games.

There are times when you are sent to the same locations over and over again, just for a split second conversation and then the NPC to tell you to go somewhere else. The fetching in this game can be frustrating at times and this is where its age shows.

Combat has been improved on from the first game but this is still a slight issue in how clunky it can feel at times. It’s a beat em up style of gameplay that’s more like Yakuza 0 than the original game. You can now use different fighting styles and there’s a healthy amount of unlockables that provide progression. Upgrades can help Kiryu learn new moves and punishing takedowns.

Yakuza Kiwami showcases some great violent takedowns that are both brutal and hilarious at times. They’re creative and can use both the environment around and nearby weapons to add that extra punch. I loved using them most during the frustrating random encounters I had as I was trying to reach a certain destination. I took my anger out on the people in my way, so what.

There are a lot of side parts to this game – both side quests and other interesting additions. While exploring you may come across an innocent person in trouble, you can choose to intervene and earn some rewards or simply walk away. Goro Majima is one of Kiryu’s rivals and provides some random and funny encounters. He’s a man who loves picking fights with you and nothing feels better when you beat him.

Side quests will pop up as you explore the world and it makes exploration feel rewarding. There is a huge range of side quests and mini games from the strange to the stranger. Yakuza Kiwami has hostess clubs where you talk to women and a weird female wrestling mini game, where the women dress up as bugs. It’s this weirdness, mixed with the drama throughout the game that is part of Yakuza’s charm.

Even with the new additions, no matter how strange they may be and however long they take to master, Yakuza Kiwami still feels a little light on the content. Sega has obviously realized this as the game is retailing at a lower cost than normal.

The main story is 20+ hours long, which is quite short for a normal Yakuza game. For the most part, it’s easy to clear your way through and enjoy the story and I liked this about Yakuza Kiwami.

My issue is that the developers could have gone further to streamline the game, perhaps getting rid of the parts that never work. For instance, the first 2-3 hours of Yakuza Kwame are painfully boring and involve a lot of fetch quests and one in particular tedious stealth mission that was so painful to play.

As far as the story in Yakuza Kiwami goes, I have some issue with the pacing throughout. It seemed like the main plot suffered from a lot of side tracking and unnecessary flashbacks. Just as things started to get interesting you would have some random flashback that harmed the pacing. This felt odd and at times often confusing.

Overall Yakuza Kiwami has made some great strides in updating and older game to modern standards. For all the bizarre, charming side quests and the updated look, there are still a fair few problems from the original game that can ruin the pace.

Yakuza Kiwami feels like a prelude to something much bigger than it, which in fairness it is. It’s a great game for newcomers to the series and one that doesn’t require you to have played any of the other games – including Yakuza 0.

Constantly threatening to write a book, but always with a story to tell. Tom has a typical northern English soul. He may sound as mundane as Jon Snow, but at least he tries to articulate. Lover of video games, comics, geek pop culture and wishing he could play Dungeons & Dragons.
BeepWee